The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor is showing real progress at last.
The much-anticipated draft management plan for the corridor is circulating, and could become the official master plan by the summer.
The Common Council held two mandatory public hearings on the draft last month. If approved, the plan then goes to the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. That should happen by the end of April, far ahead of the latest deadline, July 31.
That the management plan will meet a deadline is worth repeating, because the effort has been plagued by delays. As the project moves along, it is gaining more interest from the community, with better attendance at board meetings by members of the public.
Funding has also picked up a bit. The March 8 concert featuring opera star Kathleen Battle at Kleinhans Music Hall raised $5,000 for the corridor. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra donated $2,500, which will be matched by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.
Rather than ask why this project – approved by the state in 2007 – has taken so long to gain momentum, the appropriate reaction should be gratitude that it’s moving.
The heritage corridor will spotlight the city’s African-American history. It starts at East Ferry Street and Masten Avenue and ends at Swan Street, with several offshoots along the way. It includes the Colored Musicians Club, Michigan Street Baptist Church and the Nash House Museum.
The historic corridor will better connect the city’s central business district, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, waterfront, downtown baseball stadium, arena and auto museum. The Langston Hughes Institute will move to the corridor, bringing a full-time staff that will complement the church, club and Nash House.
Once the management plan is adopted, the next item on the commission’s agenda is to consider restructuring its board of directors. After 2013, the commission will no longer be subject to the requirements for board members set up in the original legislation. A new board should be composed of community members dedicated to making the Michigan Street Corridor a vital part in the city’s cultural tourism.
Potential is turning into progress at last. The community should do its part by showing renewed interest and involvement.